Sir John Lauder (1646-1742)

Sir John Lauder (1646-1742)

Judge and political commentator

Sir John Lauder of Fountainhall was the son of an Edinburgh merchant who bought the East Lothian estate of Woodhead. He kept a journal of his youthful travels on the continent. As an advocate he already hoped one day to be a judge. Judges had the title 'Lord' with the name of their estate; and who would take the decisions of 'Lord Woodhead' seriously? So he persuaded his father to change the name to Fountainhall. From 1678 onwards, he not only recorded the judicial decisions of the Session and Privy Council, but wrote candid chronicles of political events down to the Revolution of 1688, which have been of great use to historians. In 1689, he was made a judge as Lord Fountainhall. In 1692 he was offered, but refused, the post of Lord Advocate; according to tradition, because it came with a prohibition against prosecuting those guilty of the recent massacre of Glencoe, who included Sir John Dalrymple, Master of Stair, the head of his own political faction. He was an MP in the Scottish Parliament from 1685 to 1707 and voted against the Union.

Testament of Sir John Lauder of Fountainhall

(National Records of Scotland, CC8/8/89 pp130-132)

The testament only covers a small part of his estate - a bequest to one of his grandchildren - but the documents it quotes show his opposition to needless legal formalities, 'when a Judge I ever Preferred Matter to forms'.

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